My elementary school participated in Invent America!, a program created to encourage kids to identify problems and develop solutions with the support of parents and teachers. Some pretty amazing ideas, for the inventions' compassion and insightfulness, were on display at the competition. I never won because my ideas were too complicated to execute by a 10-year-old's hand, although I surely fantasized about Nobel glory and merchandising riches. Last night, on "American Inventor," I relived the pain of rejection while watching a panel of shortsighted judges unanimously deny one man's 26-year pursuit of a dream.
Bulletball, a game that is essentially a cross between ping pong and handball, was demonstrated by a man who had left his job, sold his wife's wedding ring, and lived in a car. Peter Jones, the British judge, entreated the man to not lose his mind in addition to the rest of his possessions. The inventor did make a poignant remark when he said that 80% of people take their inventions to the grave with them, but his haunting comment that he would be looking down from heaven smiling because his game had become a reality was just tragic.
The highlight of the contestants was Eric Thompson, a factory worker with six kids, who barrelled into the audition with a polished and high-energy presentation of a wearable goal post to help kids train for football. He had only spent $30 on attaching the foam stick to a vest, but it was clearly tested for safety beyond effectiveness. I agree with the panel that the invention was marketable and useful. I also liked the southern woman with the clip for broken bathroom stalls. I would totally buy and carry one of those for all the random public facilities I have to use on any given day.
Mary Lou Quinlan still annoys the stuffing out of me -- her explosive behavior in reaction to the long ribbon lingerie incited much laughter in the audience at my home -- but I will still tune in next week to see what else America has come up with.
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